Interview with Mortiis – October, 2005
By: Ryan Garab
RG: Hello Mortiis
Mortiis: Hey Ryan, how are ya?
RG: Not too bad. I’d like to start this off by extending my appreciation to you for allowing Chicago Music Guide and myself personally the opportunity to do this interview. I’ve been a fan for quite some time now going all the way back to the early Emperor days and now on to the Era 3 of MortIIs.
Mortiis: Cool, thank you!
RG: How has the North American tour been treating you so far?
Mortiis: It’s been great! I mean, you know, I’m sure you know it’s been a support thing for Danzig and as a matter of fact, I’m very grateful to Danzig for putting us on this tour because we get to play to a good fucking crowd every night. The size of that crowd is pretty fucking beyond what I could ever dream of playing on my own if I was going to go on as a headliner, you know. We get to play to up to a thousand people sometimes every day you know, which is a lot of people to play to for someone like me. So dude, all the honor to him for that, for picking us out and it’s going great too by the way!
RG: Definitely much more exposure for you versus your first tour which was with Christian Death, I believe.
Mortiis: Yes, which was also back in the ‘70’s (laughing)
Mortiis: It feels like it was. Yeah, there hasn’t been an amazing amount of label support for U.S. exposure to put it that way since that time unfortunately. We’ve had a lot of offers to go on tour with some decent size bands since then, since ’99 when we did with Christian Death. But you know, I don’t feel like we got a lot of support from the label. They just wanted to focus on Europe, primarily the U.K. which was extremely frustrating.
RG: Well, the American public really seems to embrace the Norwegian music scene, especially here in Chicago. Chicago loves MortIIs; I’ve heard nothing but positive when it comes to MortIIs. I know that you’ve garnered criticism in the past, unintelligent I might add…
Mortiis: (laughing) yeah!
RG: But this Era 3 of MortIIs is phenomenal!
Mortiis: Yeah, it’s working out great!
RG: “The Grudge” is number one, it’s an excellent album. It’s very refreshing to hear since there hasn’t been too much dark wave music coming out with that kind of potency.
RG: It’s a very angry album, yet focused, but there are some parts in there where it seems like you’re going to just explode with anger. Is that because of past criticism, or…
Mortiis: You really feel that? Damn, I didn’t know that I exploded on the album, I feel like I explode a bit more live, but…
RG: Well, you were very explosive live!
Mortiis: Yeah, that’s a fucked up situation for me a lot. You know, if I just may go off on that tangent. Live is weird for me because I’m extremely sort of self-conscious and whenever I go live I am always really nervous. And nervousness (for me), kind of turns into anger. I get a short tolerance a lot. I don’t tolerate anything on stage. If I feel like somebody fucks up, I get so fucking mad at, including myself. I mean, you know I hurt myself on stage a lot, but…
RG: So, you are a perfectionist?
Mortiis: Not really, but it’s like when I’m in situations where I feel pressured, in a live situation where you perform in front of people, it’s a weird predicament for a person to be in. Being in a live situation for me is… I’m not really even close to being a perfectionist. When I think towards music I have a very sort of punk approach, or attitude I guess.
RG: Would that explain your contribution to the new SCUM record?
Mortiis: (surprised!) My sort of reflection going on there (laughing) Casey Chaos! I’ve known him for a few years, that guy is totally sort of the Black Flag, you know, sort of old school punk background, Henry Rollins thing I guess and he’s a great fucking guy! And for some reason, he’s into Norwegian Black Metal and I have the background and I think he connected that. I think he enjoys the darkness of what he sees in Norwegian music, you know, that particular kind of music and I think he wanted to combine that with his own sort of punk background. I really liked the idea. Although when I was talking to him on the phone a lot, I had a more industrial attitude about it. When it actually came down to the recording of it, I didn’t really do a lot that I thought I was gonna do but, in the end I did some backing vocals, I did lead vocals on a song that has not been released yet. But I think me and Casey have a lot more in common than probably Casey and the rest of the guys in that band. It just so happens that I don’t necessarily make punk music, per se. I just have that sort of attitude. But I think a lot of punk fans and punk music in general, we can probably draw a lot of parallels to. You know, my attitude live and you know like, fuck it! Let’s just fucking do it, you know, fuck everyone kind of thing. I’m not really a perfectionist as such, but ironically I was probably the one who did the least on that album of the people I was in touch to begin with. Cause he’s really into Black Metal, so he had also Samoth (Emperor), those guys do their fuckin think and those are really gifted people, really fucking gifted. And I can’t play guitar (laughing) I guess that’s why I couldn’t contribute with those riffs and whatever.
RG: How is it now for you to have a full band backing you? Does it take some of the weight off of your shoulders?
Mortiis: Before the SMELL OF RAIN, we barely did any touring at all. When I made the SMELL OF RAIN, I was realizing at the time that by making this kind of music I was going to nee a band to back me up because this was the kind of music that I was going to want to play live. I was basically at a point in my life where I was feeling, like, this old shit, it’s o.k. it’s not great, I don’t really feel excited about it or I don’t feel like this is anything that I wanted to continue to do. The SMELL OF RAIN was pretty much recorded with a bunch of session musicians and after it was done I realized that when this album gets out, people are going to expect us to go out and play. That’s also what I wanted to do. So I set out to find members of the band.
RG: What are your views nowadays on the Black Metal Scene?
Mortiis: The original question. You know to tell you the truth I haven’t paid a lot of attention since about 1995 which is fucking 10 years ago now that I think about it. That’s when I started dropping out. My impression of the Black Metal Scene these days is pretty much about becoming big. I think Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth set a standard.
RG: I notice that at the end of the show tonight you lost the mask.
Mortiis: I ripped it off.
RG: Right. Is this going to be era 4 of MortIIs?
Mortiis: I don’t really know, I mean I just enjoy the fact that I can fuck with people minds right now. I think we are at that point in time in my career and my imagination in sort of an artful way, pull off the mask during the right song and watch people’s reactions and sit back and laugh at it. If it doesn’t work out, tough shit for me. I think with the way that I presented my self that last couple of years which was a lot of morphing between, you know the wheel face and the prosthetic face. I think I have a right to do it. I mean honestly, it feels to me like it’s a cool thin to do. It doesn’t mean I’m going to come off and look like fucking Bryan Adams on stage or anything like that. I’m still a big fan of imagery and mystery. Things like that.
RG: Do you expect to do any headlining tours in North America?
Mortiis: I don’t know man I think I should more support shit, you know may be just go up on the bill a little bit if possible,and bill it that way, then maybe in a couple of years…
RG: Well, opening for Danzig is a good start.
Mortiis: Yeah that’s what I mean, it’s a great start! I wish we could of capitalized on the buzz that we had a few years ago but…you know it wasn’t like I was sitting at home, fucking jerking off, I was witting around waiting saying hey, what’s going on?! Are we gonna do something or what?! Everyone was stuck with their fucking thumbs up theirs asses!
RG: Your live show is definitely worth seeing.
Mortiis: We’re really good now; I mean we really worked hard to make ourselves an interesting act.
RG: I’ve got one last question for you. What does Mortiis listen to these days?
Mortiis: You know what, on this tour I listen to a lot of classic rock, Led Zepplin shit.
Mortiis: that’s it man!
RG: Well, thank you for taking the time out with me today, I really appreciate it!
Forget what you think you know about Mortiis. Dismiss any image that immediately comes to mind when you think of both the band and its multitalented leader. Let go of any impression you may have. Start over with a clean slate.
That is exactly what Mortiis has done.
Mortiis’s The Great Deceiver is not the result of a rebirth, an evolution, or a metamorphosis. This great new album does not mark a new chapter in the band’s growing musical legacy. It is much more.
The Great Deceiver is Mortiis’s greatest and most comrehensive effort to date.
A refreshing blend of techno, industrial, metal, punk and progressive rock, this disc mesmerizes listeners from the first sounds of the opener, “Feed The Greed,” to the fading notes of its closer, “Too Little, Too Late.” More than the sum of its dozen tracks, it is a lush, layered opus that continues to deliver fresh new sounds after multiple listens.
“It’s a ‘headphones record’,” agrees Mortiis, the band’s leader and chief songwriter. Although he and his band dedicated the last two years of their lives to create this musical marvel, he admits songwriting is a continual, never-ending process. In addition to his journal of lyrical ideas, the artist collects what he describes as “musical sketches” on a computer.
“We can’t just sit down and bang out a complete song in two hours,” he continues. “Our songs are pieced together during long stretches of time. ‘Bleed Like You,’ which was composed entirely on a piano, is the only song that came together in a day.”
“We´re sound geeks who like to mess around with different effects in weird combinations to create cool, strange and mutated new sounds as building blocks in our music” says guitarist Levi Gawron. “We often spend days messing around with sounds and recording strange noises, but we always have a clear idea of what the song should like in the end.”
Produced by Mortiis and Levi, and co-mixed by the duo and Chris Vrenna (Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails), The Great Deceiver’s sound is decidedly ’09. Conceptually, however, it harkens back to the ’70s, when albums were complete musical journeys; more than a mere collection of tracks surrounding the presumed “hit.”
“It’s not a traditional concept record,” explains Mortiis, “but it underlying theme is about feeling emotionally scarred, frustrated and full of angst.”
Although Mortiis no longer wears the latex mask that was the visual face of the band during its early live performances, the band’s members realized it was still wearing figurative masks. The struggle to tear these masks away fueled The Great Deceiver’s creation process.
“Doppelganger,’ for instance, is me screaming at myself,” the artist explains. “While writing the lyrics, I was searching for my real identity. I wondered ‘Is this really me?’ Do I hate myself again? Have the years of criticism I received for wearing a mask finally found its way into my head?”
Mortiis, however, have not abandoned their visual side. Music videos for “Doppelganger” and “Zeitgeist” were recently filmed by Robyn Von Swank, the renowned photographer whose bizarre, creepy and morbid, but hauntingly beautiful images are the perfect visual compliments to the band’s music.
“We are always looking for new artistic people to collaborate with,” says Mortiis. “We all love Robyn’s art. Her photos have this great antique, decayed and worn out look. We got in touch with her through her MySpace page and, at first, she was going to do photography for us. Then she expressed interest in getting into music videos.”
“She is a unique lady,” adds Levi. “She understands what the artist wants and she is a great person to work with.”
“We had faith in her,” continues Mortiis. “She certainly came through.”
Then, after two years of painstaking perfectionism, the band realized it had put the finishing touch on its creation.
“It was hard to believe that it was finally done,” laugh Levi. “I spent a whole night in the studio control room, listening to the final mixes over and over again. Deep down inside, I guess I was hoping to hear some flaws. It was hard letting it go. Finally, we all felt proud of what we had accomplished. We were happy and we celebrated by getting drunk.”
“The first few days after the record was complete felt weird,” says Mortiis. “But there was no reason to go back to the studio.”
Now it is time to share for Mortiis to share its latest musical creation with the world
“We’ve been polishing this turd long enough,” chuckles Levi. “It’s as smelly as it can ever be. All kidding aside, it is the best work that this band has ever done and we are all excited to put it out there for everyone to not just hear, but also experience.”
Now is your chance to enter the weird, but dynamic musical world of Mortiis; now is your chance to discover and marvel at the masterpiece that is The Great Deceiver. It is a disc that is certain to appeal to fans of Filter, Static X, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails and Rob Zombie.
So, if you wondered what would have happened had both the industrial rock and the agro-core movement of the ’90s not stalled, but continued evolving into something brash, new and original, you finally have your answer.
And that answer is Mortiis.
For more information about MortIIs please check out his official site http://www.mortiis.com